Vodafone Website Advertisement
Meeting 10 November 2009
Complainant: P. Bhatnagar
Advertisement: Vodafone New Zealand Ltd
Complaint: The website advertisement for Vodafone was on a part of the Vodafone website headed "Specials & promos". The advertisement was headed "Vodafone Family". Text underneath this said "Unlimited calling & TXTing between 4 Vodafone mates for just $20 a month". When this advertisement was clicked on, viewers were taken to another screen, also with the heading "Vodafone Family". Text underneath this said "For just $20 a month you could save $390 on call & TXTing between your Vodafone Family. This great You Choose Add-On lets you create a Family group of up to 4 people on Vodafone..." Text further down the page said "One person (the group owner) needs to be on You Choose and pay the $20 monthly fee. Family members must be on Vodafone You Choose, Supa Prepay or Homephone wireless plan".
Complainant, P. Bhatnagar, said:
"Along with the screenshots if you visit here,
Everyone in your Vodafone Family Group can call, video call and TXT each other in NZ as much as they like for one flat rate of $20 per month -which is only charged to your account.
But this is not actually true. e.g. Vodafone Family costs $20/per month + the cost of a You Choose plan which is min $19.95/month.
I have attached a copy of both the previous screenshots."
The Chairman ruled that the following provision was relevant:
Code of Ethics
Rule 2: Truthful Presentation - Advertisements should not contain any statement or visual presentation or create an overall impression which directly or by implication, omission, ambiguity or exaggerated claim is misleading or deceptive, is likely to deceive or mislead the consumer, makes false and misleading representation, abuses the trust of the consumer or exploits his/her lack of experience or knowledge. (Obvious hyperbole, identifiable as such, is not considered to be misleading).
The Advertiser, Vodafone New Zealand Limited, said:
"Thank you for your letter.
The complaint concerns the statements which were found on the Vodafone website at 10 August 2009 (Statements).
The Statements were generated internally by Vodafone New Zealand Limited (Vodafone). No third party advertising agency was employed.
The complainant alleges that the Statements were misleading, on the bass that the Vodafone Family product (Product) must be purchased in conjunction with a You Choose plan at a minimum cost of $19.95 per month.
We behave that the Statements dearly explain that the Product is available only in conjunction with a You Choose calling plan.
The wording on the first screenshot enclosed by the complainant is a basic description of the Product, describing it as providing "Unlimited calling and TXTing between 4 Vodafone mates for just $20 a month". This description provides a link to the more detailed Product webpage. It would be impossible to a visitor to the Vodafone website to purchase the Product without first encountering the more detailed Product webpage.
The requirement for a You Choose plan is explained six times within the text of the Product webpage, both implicitly (in respect of the nature of the Product as an "Add-On") and explicitly as follows:
- "This great You Choose Add-On"
- "Anyone can be part of your Vodafone Family Group as long as they're on a You Choose, Supa Prepay or Homephone Wireless or iPhone plan... One Person (the group owner) needs to be on You Choose and pay the $20 monthly fee"
- "If you're on You Choose, here's how to get Family..."
- You'll need to move to You Choose if you want to get Vodafone Family..."
- "If you want Vodafone Family you'll need to get an On Account You Choose Plan"
- "Vodafone Family is only available as a You Choose Add On so you'll need to change to a You Choose Plan to get it."
Accordingly, we do not believe that the Statements are misleading and think it unlikely that other customers would form on incorrect impression of the Product.
Please contact me if you require any further clarification on any matters raised in this letter."
The Complaints Board carefully read all the information in relation to the complaint and read a copy of the advertisement. It noted that the Complainant, P. Bhatnagar, was of the view that the advertisement was misleading where it said "Unlimited calling & TXTing between 4 Vodafone mates for just $20 a month".
The Chairman directed the Complaints Board to consider the complaint with reference to Rule 2 of the Code of Ethics. This required the Complaints Board to consider whether or not the advertisement contained anything, which either directly or by implication, was likely to deceive or mislead consumers.
Turning to the advertisement, the Complaints Board noted that it comprised of a small box of information on the homepage of the Vodafone website, under the heading "Specials & promos". The Complaints Board noted that the initial advertisement did say "Unlimited calling & TXTing...for just $20 a month". The Complaints Board noted however that to obtain substantial information about this offer, and to find out how to take up the offer, viewers had to click on the initial advertisement. The Complaints Board noted that when they did this viewers were taken to a page headed "Vodafone Family" where comprehensive details of this offer were given. The Complaints Board saw that these details included "One person (the group owner) needs to be on You Choose and pay the $20 monthly fee. Family members must be on Vodafone You Choose, Supa Prepay or Homephone wireless plan." The Complaints Board observed that this explained the full cost of accessing the Vodafone Family offer presented.
Having noted the above, the majority of the Complaints Board was of the view that people who viewed the website advertisement and were interested in the Vodafone Family offer, would have access to enough information within the context of the advertisement so as to not be misled as to the cost of the offer. Accordingly, the majority of the Complaints Board said that the advertisement was not in breach of Rule 2 of the Code of Ethics.
A minority of the Complaints Board disagreed. It was of the view that there was a chance that viewers viewing the website advertisement would not access the information on the following webpage, and accordingly could be misled as to the full cost of taking up the Vodafone Family offer. It was of the view that there was a chance viewers could be misled or deceived by the advertisement, and accordingly was of the view that it was in breach of Rule 2 of the Code of Ethics.
However, in accordance with the view of the majority, the Complaints Board ruled to not uphold the complaint.
Decision: Complaint Not Upheld